Wednesday, May 2nd
While packing up and preparing to leave the morning, we have a near-death experience. A young bird has fallen from a high branch onto the cobblestones of the hotel’s courtyard. It is obviously suffering and sees a big motorcycle glove reaching for it and lay it on the sand of the flower bed. We wonder who will find it first: a cat or the notified receptionist.
A few confusing directions from the GPS in Cabras are a preview of what is to come. The town of Oristano is a puzzle of one-way streets, but the maps that are stored on my GPS don’t have this information. Therefore it is happily attempting to route us past no-entry signs half of the time and uselessly recalculating the route during the other half. Using common sense isn’t that easy in this town that is obviously designed in honor of Erno Rubik. We make it through Oristano in the end, and find ourselves on a very unitalian grid of streets in 90 degree angles. The sun is shining brightly already this morning, so to make riding a bit more challenging, there are big — oomph — potholes in the shade.
A bit later, today’s death theme is continued with a motionless floating diver in the Sound of Marceddi, where we find a bridge with a no-entry sign where we’d like to pass. The bridge is only as wide as one vehicle and has no passing places, so we see the point of this. A truck driver shows us that our Germanic interpretation of the law is a bit shortsighted by blasting past us and onto the bridge without any hesitation in his right foot. We follow his example and we have to admit that it works wonderfully well.
At the other side of the Sound we ride through pretty scenery on a fairly bumpy stretch of narrow asphalt. At Funtanazza, where we’d like to have a look at the beach, we’re disappointed to find out that the road leading to it is private property for which we (still?) have respect. Near Montevecchio the road gets better. This probably has to do with the extensive coal mining that was going on here in the past.
At Guspini, Markus remembers that he hasn’t checked the oil of his Monster since our last day on Corsica. The empty oil sight glass tells us that it’s about time to top it up. A friendly local car dealer does have oil, but since it’s only light oil for cars, he sends us to the local fuel station where they should have something better per il Mostro. We find the station and, having watched McGyver in our youth, manage to bodge up a funnel from an old ferry boarding card and some tape. The oil level remains unimpressed by the liter of 10W40 we’ve just added. The coy request for another liter of oil appeals to the attendant’s sense of humor. We make a mental note to check the oil more frequently.
The road from Guspini through Arbus to Iglesias is fantastic and all the more enjoyable after the successful quest for oil. We decide to ride onto the peninsula of Sant’Antioco because it looks appealing on the map. This is rather disappointing but we continue all the way to Calasetta, the last bit behind a hearse, to remain with the theme of the day. This hearse is something special, it’s a Maybach, the German luxury car brand. We assume that the deceased was a high-ranking member of the notorious Sardinian potato mafia.
There’s nothing going on at the seashore of Calasetta. All restaurants are closed, except one. Everyone else is probably attending the funeral of Il Patatone. The owner of the only open restaurant informs us that, although his restaurant is open, the kitchen is closed. It’s 3:30pm and we could really have a snack by now. Sensing our disappointment, he manages to prepare the best pieces of toast any of us have ever had from a closed kitchen.
Having lost quite a bit of time by now with the oil, an inefficient quest for fuel and visiting this peninsula, we decide to turn up the pace one notch and rush for the SP71, the road along the Costa del Sud. This road is highly recommended when visiting Sardinia. This is probably one of the best roads I’ve ridden so far. The late afternoon sun provides great lighting for this stunning coastal road, which is lined with cacti and other abundant flora and provides dazzling vistas of the Mediterranean and has fabulous pavement to boot.
In an effort to ride as far south as possible, we turn right towards Capo Spartivento. We ride as far as we can until we encounter an unpaved road with an unclear destination. We let the fact of being only 185km (115mi) away from Africa settle in and take a short break in this mosquito-infested area with some small lagoons. It’s pretty, but the mosquitos win.
Although it’s nearly 6pm now, we decide to ride the 225km (140mi) to Bari Sardo, which is approx. halfway up the east coast. This will allow us plenty of time tomorrow to have a look at an infamous Sardinian bandit town and still make it to the ferry in Olbia on time. As a bonus, we get to ride the Strada Statale 198 which has been flaunting her curves ever since I’ve first opened a Sardinian street map.
We call a Tourenfahrer partner hotel in Bari Sardo and tell them we’ll be arriving late tonight. To gain some time, we avoid the captial Cagliari completely by taking what looks like a motorway on the map. It is indeed built as a motorway with two lanes in each direction and a large concrete barrier in the middle and there are no intersections. What doesn’t match the motorway experience is that the speed limit is posted as 50km/h (30mph). There are some warnings for an uneven road surface and gravel ahead, but we’re happiliy going with the flow of the other traffic at an indicated 130km/h (80mph). Riding the posted limit would be lethal here. This is what two days of riding on Sardinia do to you: you’re completely unfazed by riding at speeds for which the Swiss would incarcerate you until they’d join the European Union.
The fun already starts when we join the SS128 north of Monastir. There is not much traffic anymore and long curves are alternated with straights that make overtaking a breeze. The frequent railroad crossings are tricky though. They are very bumpy and usualy positioned at the end of a long straight. This means fierce braking to approx. 25km/h (15mph). As a bonus for this inconvenience this is followed by the kind of massive acceleration that curves your lips upwards.
The SS198 is more than the map promised: superb asphalt, beautiful light from an impending sunset and nobody else around. The perfect road to get into the zone quicky. After some more hard riding we need to take a break at the bridge over the Lago del Flumendosa. We’ve been riding hard with full concentration since our detour around Cagliari 90km (60mi) back. We try to cover as much ground as is sensible in the subsiding light until it’s time to switch off race mode altogether. The last 60km (40mph) are in the dark and I don’t want to run into a deer or boar just because I’m having so much fun in their habitat.
We notice that the villages come to life only after dark, whereas they seem nearly deserted during the day. At Gairo, we’re stopped in our tracks by road works. I did see the announcement a while ago, but didn’t know how much that would affect our route to Bari Sardo. The answer is ‘very much’ and we turn around to reach our destination through Jerzu. It’s getting quite foggy now and I follow a slow car for a while because it is impossible to see whether overtaking is safe and I’m getting tired too. Tired enough to fall for my GPS’s latest prank of sending us down a steep (20%) downhill stretch where there is a perfectly simple alternative through Jerzu. Perhaps it was just trying to help me because I missed a turn and it knows me well enough by now that I don’t enjoy making U-turns on a steep cobbled road in the foggy darkness with cramped shoulder blades after a day of riding.
Keeping our promise of being late, we arrive at Hotel Stella Dell’Est at 10:15pm. We’re given a room with only a frosted window in the emergency door in the back but we’re too tired to care and will only stay one night anyway. We should work on the first impressions we make on receptionists because this room has a bathroom for the disabled too, diving board included. I feel like a child again with my legs dangling alongside the toilet bowl.
Following a tip of the receptionist, we find Ristorante San Giorgio which is still open at this hour on a Wednesday evening. We enjoy our food under the fluorescent lighting and the exaggerated sound effects of a Bud Spencer movie, which is played loudly on an enormous TV. We can’t complain at EUR 25 for a complete dinner for two persons.